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Leaders of the black church are up in arms over this year’s presidential election. Black pastors are challenging their congregants’ loyalty to their Christian faith by asking how they could support President Obama’s endorsement of same-s*x marriage. In addition to encouraging their congregants to withhold from supporting President Obama, they’re also encouraging them to not vote for Romney — citing the presidential candidate’s support of the questionable theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its former ban on men of African descent in the priesthood. So with the two primary presidential candidates ruled out, black pastors are encouraging their congregation to stay home this year.
Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant of Baltimore formed the Empowerment Network, a national coalition of about 30 denominations working to register congregants and provide them with background on health care, the economy, education and other policy issues. Last month, Bryant told The Washington Informer, an African-American newsweekly, “This is the first time in black church history that I’m aware of that black pastors have encouraged their parishioners not to vote.” Bryant, who opposes gay marriage, said the president’s position on marriage is “at the heart” of the problem.
“When President Obama made the public statement on gay marriage, I think it put a question in our minds as to what direction he’s taking the nation,” said the Rev. A.R. Bernard, founder of the predominantly African-American Christian Cultural Center in New York. Bernard, whose endorsement is much sought-after in New York and beyond, voted for Obama in 2008. He said he’s unsure how he’ll vote this year. The Rev. Dwight McKissic, a prominent Southern Baptist preacher, describes himself as a political independent. He did not support President Obama in 2008 because of his position on social issues. McKissic said Obama’s support for same-gender marriage “betrayed the Bible and the black church.” After researching Mormonism for a sermon, McKissic decided to propose a resolution to the annual Southern Baptist Convention that would have condemned Mormon as “racist teachings;” however, his resolution failed . When asked what he’ll be doing on election day, McKissic said, “I plan to go fishing.”
Of course, all leaders of the black church aren’t in support of boycotting the polls this year. Rev. George Nelson Jr., senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, participated in a conference call with other African-American pastors during which the ministers resolved to oppose gay marriage. The conference call took place the day after President Obama announced his endorsement of same-s*x marriage in May. Nelson said President Obama’s statement had caused a “storm” in the African-American community. Nelson planned to vote and has told others to do the same. He declined to say which candidate he would support. ”Because of those that made sacrifices in days gone by and some greater than others with their lives. It would be totally foolish for me to mention staying away from the polls,” he stated via email.